Curing Your Bacon Craving MEAT Insider BACON Challenge September 2018
“It’s a classic salt, sugar, and spice-cured pork bacon that dates back hundreds of years to before we had ‘Prague powder’ pink curing salts.”
think it’s safe to say we all love bacon. Well, most of us love bacon— there are still a few holdouts! The question is: Why aren’t youmaking your own bacon at home? A lot of people shy away from curing and smoking their own bacon because it can seem intimidating. But I can tell you, with a little instruction, it can be as easy as smoking any other cut of meat. Take buckboard bacon, for example. It’s a classic salt, sugar, and spice-cured pork bacon that dates back hundreds of years to before we had “Prague powder”pink curing salts. It’s the kind of bacon early pioneers kept in the back of their chuck wagons as they headed out west, hence the name buckboard referring to a part of the wagons they used for travel. The great thing about buckboard bacon is that it keeps for a long time—which was perfect in the days before the invention of the refrigerator. Keep inmind that when I refer to“buckboard bacon,”I’m referring to the method of cooking the meat rather than a specific cut of meat, because if you google search“buckboard bacon,” you’ll discover that in these modern days people typically refer to it as a cured and cold-smoked meat made fromnon-belly pork cuts. Most buckboard bacon recipes you’ll find online call for the use of pork cuts such as butts or shoulders. This might be a regional thing or popular on the internet, and that’s fine, however, where I come from—and dating back over three generations, back to the days of my grand pappy —we always made our buckboard bacon from pork bellies. I
buckboard bacon. As I always say,“To each his own,”because the only thing that matters is what you and your family like to eat. The secret to good buckboard bacon is your patience with the process. It’s a process that takes two to three weeks. I always make my buckboard bacon in the fall when it regularly gets below 40 degrees but doesn’t hit freezing. When the temps get below 40, you can cure your meat in a garage or right outside just by wrapping it in cheesecloth. (More on that in the buckboard bacon recipe inside this issue.) Every region around the country has that sweet spot for the perfect outside temperature. Though, if it does dip below freezing, that’s okay; you’ll just have to add another day to the curing process. Cold smoking for buckboard bacon is simply keeping the smoker temperature below 100 degrees— ideally right around 95 degrees, though you can take it a little lower. Cold smoking is done to avoid cooking the bacon, because you want to fry it up later. Even better, cold smoking really helps incorporate the flavors you want to get in there. Now, a lot of people want to know the difference between buckboard bacon and other types of bacon. In this case, what sets it apart from a typical maple bacon? The answer is curing.
Buckboard bacon cures for two to three weeks. Maple bacon (just like the recipe you’ll find on page 4), cures for about seven days, though some people will only cure it for three to four days. Another question people ask is: What is the difference between home-cured bacon and store-bought bacon? The bacon you buy in the store is cured and smoked in about three days. They pump their pork bellies full of curing chemicals, then spray the meat with the same cure. Then they use sawdust to fuel the smoke. In short, it’s very industrialized. If you’ve never made bacon before, buckboard bacon is a great place to start. Then, from there, you can experiment with different flavors. The truth is that there are a lot of options out there for bacon. You can even leave the skin on, if you want! I do occasionally get my pork bellies with the skin on. Again,“To each his own,”because it’s all about your personal preference. Take a look at this month’s recipes and give one, or both, a shot. It’s hard to go wrong with bacon — that’s why I always have some on hand!
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using pork shoulders, butts, or bellies tomake your
–Danny McTurnan 1 grillingandsmokingassociation.org
with a possible subheader right underneath Beef Grades Decoded UNDERSTANDING USDA BEEF GUIDELINES
If you’ve ever purchased a cut of beef or strolled past the meat counter at your local grocery store, you’ve probably noticed the different grades of beef. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guidelines for the meat sold in stores across the country. Before the meat is sold, it receives a grade. As a shopper, it can be difficult to understand what these grades really mean. Here’s how the grades break down: USDA Prime: If you want a high-quality cut of beef, you should get USDA Prime. These cuts of meat tend to be more expensive, but for the price, you get a tender, flavorful, well- marbled cut of meat. For a fantastic steak, you should reach for Prime. USDA Choice: A lot of people purchase USDA Choice when they want a good cut of beef but don’t want or cannot afford to pay the USDA Prime price. These cuts generally GRILL Giveaway
Because of this, Select cuts are usually less tender and flavorful. These aren’t great options for steak, but if you’re making a stew, you can’t go wrong with Select. Standard and Commercial: These cuts of beef don’t always make it to the supermarket, but when they do, they’re often priced lower. They also have limited marbling, which can mean a tougher texture with less flavor. Keep in mind that these cuts are not often labeled anywhere on the packaging, so if you see beef packaging that lacks a grade, it may be a lower-grade cut. Utility, Cutter, and Canner: Many people never encounter these grades at the supermarket. These are cut from very lean, older cattle and are usually sold directly to food manufacturers to make processed meat products, such as hot dogs. These grades are also used in dog food. “Ask a PRO” LIVE Sessions • Sunday 9/9/18, 5 p.m. Central Buckboard Bacon Part 1 (The Cure) • Sunday 9/16/18, 5 p.m. Central Buckboard Bacon Part 2 (The Cook) + Maple Bacon Part 1 (The Cure) • Sunday 9/30/18, 5 p.m. Central Maple Bacon Part 2 ( The Cook) + Live Q&A Go to gsa.life/2018september for instructions on how to access these LIVE sessions.
have less marbling, but they are still fairly high quality. When you just want to throw a few steaks or burgers on the grill, Choice will serve you well. USDA Select: This grade of meat is decent quality, but it doesn’t have the level of marbling found in Prime and Choice cuts.
Are you ready to put your grilling and smoking skills to the test? Take the Bacon Challenge and you could WIN up to $500 in grilling and meat-smoking prizes! Wanna knowmore? Head over to gsa.life/2018september for all the details on how to enter. Good luck, and we look forward to seeing what you cook up!
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A True Cold Smoking Classic Dan ' s Buckboard Bacon Ingredients
1 pork belly, divided in half to make two slabs weighing 5 pounds each (NOTE: this recipe is for one 5-pound slab) 21 ounces sea salt, canning salt, or kosher salt
16 juniper berries, crushed 4 teaspoons coarse black pepper
• • • • •
1 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon cloves 1 teaspoon allspice 1 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 cup sorghummolasses
1. In a small bowl, mix the salt, sugar, crushed juniper berries, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and coarse black pepper. 2. Cover surface of the pork belly with mixture, making sure no meat remains showing. 3. Place bacon in container, meat- side-up, and sprinkle with a little more of the salt mixture, setting aside any that remains. 4. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 2 weeks, making sure to drain any juices that accumulate. Add more salt mixture, if necessary. Note: If you live in an area that gets down to 34 to 40 F, you can hang the bacon (wrapped in cheesecloth) outside or in a garage — just make sure the meat is covered with salt!
5. After 2 weeks, wash bacon 3–4 times to get all salt off. To reduce excess saltiness, place bacon in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove, cool, and pat dry. Then, add any extra spices you like. Finally, brush a light coating of molasses over the bacon. Cold Smoking The smoker temperature must be below 100 F. If it gets too hot, you won’t get the best smoke flavor. I recommend hickory wood for buckboard bacon, but feel free to use what you like. Start your smoker with your chips and charcoal. I put about 4–5 briquettes on the bottom, then top themwith the wood chips to bring the
there for about 8–10 hours, or until the bacon is the color I’m looking for.
Just be sure to not oversmoke. You want a medium brownish-yellow coloring, and once you have your desired color, pull the bacon out of the smoker and let it rest. Then place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours before slicing.
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smoker temperature close to 100 F. I hold it
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Makin’Your Best Bacon
What Do USDA Beef Grades Really Mean? Are You Ready for a Challenge? Buckboard Bacon
A Mouthwatering Maple Bacon Recipe
Danny’s Easy Maple Bacon Ingredients
Once the bacon has become firm (7 days or a tad longer), rinse 3 times, making sure to get all salt off. Then, cut a single slice off, fry it, and taste-test it. If it tastes too salty, don’t worry. Get a large pot of boiling water and place the slab of bacon in the water for a couple of minutes. This blanches the meat. After about 2 minutes, remove bacon from boiling water and immediately submerge in cold water. Let sit for an additional 2–3 minutes. Take out and pat dry. Smoking Get the smoker temperature to 185 F. Use maple wood and a few sticks of green maple, if possible. As the smoker gets ready, add any extra spices you like to the slab of bacon, then apply a generous layer of maple syrup. Place in smoker and smoke until your pork belly reaches an internal temperature of 145 F. Once it hits 145 F, remove bacon from smoker and submerge in cold water for 5 minutes. Take out, pat dry, and let rest for 30 minutes. Then, place in refrigerator for 2 hours before slicing.
• 5 pounds pork belly • 1 cup brown sugar • 6 tablespoons kosher or canning salt • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper • 2 teaspoons curing salt/Prague powder ( Optional : Read directions on container for how many teaspoons per pound of meat.) • 1 cup maple syrup (Do not use imitation!) Directions 1. Rinse the pork belly under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. 2. In small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, and curing salt. 3. Rub seasoning mixture into all sides of the pork belly. 4. Place pork belly, along with any leftover curing mixture, into container. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. 5. Place in refrigerator for 7 days (up to 14 days for extra-thick bacon). Turn every 2 days.
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